Novak Djokovic speaks to the media following his semi-final victory over Juan Martin Del Potro
Q. Have you ever had to dig deeper to get a win than that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I've had some epic matches in my career and some long five‑setters. Especially the one that stands out is the finals Nadal Australian Open a few years ago. It went for six hours.
But I have the experience of playing a long matches, and I know that I have been pushed to the limit today, as my opponent was also. It was one of the most thrilling matches that I have ever played, especially here in Wimbledon.
It was a very high‑quality tennis from the first to the last point. There's not many unforced errors. I think there was a lot of, lot of winners. So both of us, we tried to dictate the play. I did have opportunities in the fourth set when I was a break up and match points in tiebreaker to end out the match earlier.
But credit to him, because he show his fighting spirit. He came up with from back of the court some amazing flat backhands and forehands that you cannot say anything but congratulate him on that and move on.
But I managed to hang in there, stay tough, and really glad to win.
Q. How do you explain you've become such a master in long, long matches like that?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I have lost a long match in French Open just a few weeks ago. You can't win all the matches.
But I know that when we get to the fifth set, when I play a top player at the later stages of a major event especially, this is where your physical strength but also mental ability to stay tough can, you know, decide the winner of that match.
So, yes, I was disappointed that I didn't finish the match before in fourth set. But knowing that I have a chance, more chance of staying longer in the rally with him, and just as the match goes on I felt like physically I'm fit and, you know, I can go a long way.
So that's something that gave me that mental, probably, advantage. In the end I managed to prevail.
Q. As well as you know him, have you ever seen him have so much fun in a match, especially with the importance of it on the line?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: We tend to have these kind of interactions in the matches when we play against each other last few times. I have lots of respect for him. He's a very nice guy off the court also. We know each other for many years already. He's same generation. He's a year younger.
It's great, you know. The crowd enjoyed it so much. Yeah, he had some funny reactions.
But, look, in the end of the day, we're playing this sport. Of course, you want to win when you're on the court, but you try to enjoy, you try to have fun. Sometimes that's also helping you to kind of release that stress because it's so much tension going on, you know, back and forth that sometimes it helps to relax a little bit.
Q. Can you talk about this mental side after the fourth set when you had two match points and you had to come back for the fifth.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, I don't think I've done anything wrong really in those moments. He just stepped in and, as I said, played incredibly aggressive and shots close to the line.
What was very difficult for me today was when I managed to step in the court and play aggressive shot off the return. You know, he had incredible depth in his rallies, so he would manage to back me up, you know, from the line and be in charge of the rally.
It was a cat and mouse game in a way throughout the match. Sometimes I was in control and more aggressive, and sometimes him. That's why it was a lot of tension, you know. You needed to stay committed and concentrated in order to wait for the chance. When it's presented, you have to grab it. I managed to do that in the fifth.
Q. In seven of your eight last Grand Slams you've played an epic, dramatic five‑setter. When you get to the fifth set, how much is mental and how much is physical?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I think both combined, to be honest. Of course, when you feel good physically, when you know you're fit and you don't feel a huge fatigue, that gives you mental confidence obviously, that strength that is necessary when you're playing a top player.
One without another cannot really work. So it's a combination of both.
Q. Take it a little further on the art of the epic match. How much is stroke analysis? You focus on your breathing. Talk about the dynamic within yourself in these great matches.
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: There are moments in the match when you have doubts, when you think, you know, maybe you're hesitating a little bit. Then you have moments when you're full of confidence. That's what goes through a human mind. It's normal. You have ups and downs. That's the way the lifecycle goes.
You can't always be at the right line, even though it seems in a match like this that we are, you know, kind of steady. In our minds it goes up and down. That's why it's a mental battle, I think, in the end.
It is always very important to believe in your abilities up to the very last moment that in most of the encounters actually decide the winner.
Q. You mentioned the interactions with Juan Martin. When he came onto your side of the net, what were you guys saying to each other?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: I thought he was very rude for doing that (laughter).
Q. What did you say to each other?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: That was an important point. I hit a dropshot. He hit a running forehand. The ball was very close to the line. Line umpire called it good; chair umpire said, Out.
To me it seemed more out, but, you know, luckily I wasn't in the position to challenge. It was on him to decide if he wanted to challenge or not. He asked me what's going on.
I said, Listen, if I was you, I would challenge.
He said, No, but you know it's out, and don't waste my challenge.
I said, Okay, you decide whatever you want. But truly, I'm not lying to you. It's very close. I didn't know for sure.
Q. With you again reaching a major final, what are your reflections on the childhood coach you had and recently lost and what she meant to all you achieved?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Well, she meant a lot to me. She was the mentor and she was the lady that kind of made me understand this life, tennis. I inherited that passion and love towards the sport from her.
Because nobody ever played tennis in my family before, so she was the one that was actually convincing not just me, but my father and everybody around me, that I am a talent, that I can be the best in the world one day and win majors.
So I owe a lot to her. Her passing away a few weeks ago was very hurtful and obviously very sad moment for me.
You know, she stays in best memories. I'm really glad that I'm in the finals because of her also. You know, I'm sure that she wants me to be here and she wants me to fight for the title.
So I'm really glad for that.
Q. Do you think you have sufficient time to recover physically? What will you do tomorrow to recuperate?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: The positive thing in a way is that we played first match today. I still have time.
No, as I said, physically, even in the fifth set, even we played five sets, there was a lot of falls, sliding, running, long exchanges, and still feel I'm okay. Of course, I'll be a little bit more tired than I was after my previous matches.
I'm not the first time in this situation. I was in worse situations actually before, like in Australian Open 2012, you know, or some several occasions where I managed to recover, managed win the title in the final, managed to feel fresh and play another six hours.
I'm ready and I'm looking forward to that.
Q. When it gets to the stages it got to today, you're playing somebody you regard as a friend, how difficult does it become when you're facing him across the net?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: You know, it just adds up that extra respect, I guess, in terms of relationship with the opponent. But it's nothing more than that really, because when you're on the court you're a professional. You want to win whoever is across the net. That is the kind of mindset that I had today.
Q. Is it a good thing at this stage of a tournament to have a real tough test like that? Is it something that is useful for you psychologically?
NOVAK DJOKOVIC: Absolutely, of course. I mean, I didn't expect nothing less, to be honest, because I was playing a player who didn't drop a set throughout the tournament, as I did. A very great quality player, a Grand Slam winner.
You know, we were both feeling very confident on the court. It was never going to be a straight‑set match. I was aware of that.